Charles Bedaux

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Charles Eugène Bedaux
Charles Bedaux and filmakers.gif
Bedaux with his film crew in Canada in 1934
Born 26 October 1886
Paris, France
Died 18 February 1944
Miami, Florida
Occupation Production Engineer and Management Consultant
Spouse(s) Fern

Charles Eugène Bedaux (26 October 1886 – 18 February 1944) was one of the most colorful millionaires of the early twentieth century. Friends with British and Dominion royalty and Nazis alike, he amassed a fortune developing and implementing the work measurement aspect of scientific management and was a management consultant, big game hunter and explorer.

Early years[edit]

Charles Bedaux was born in the Charenton-le-Pont commune of Paris, France.[1] In 1903, he dropped out of school and worked a series of menial jobs before befriending Henri Ledoux, a successful pimp from the infamous Pigalle district. Ledoux taught Bedaux lessons on proper dress, confidence and street-fighting, but when Ledoux was murdered in 1906, Bedaux moved to the United States, where he became a United States citizen, married, and had a son, Charles Emile Bedaux (1909–1993).[1] He would later claim in interviews to have worked as a restaurant bottle-washer, a sandhog,[2] and at the New Jersey Worsted Mills in Hoboken.[1]

Scientific management[edit]

Bedaux was one of the leading contributors in the field of work measurement or labor measurement, one strand of the scientific management movement's influence. In this, he was strongly influenced by F.W. Taylor's book Shop Management,[3] particularly Taylor's time study practices, and Charles E. Knoeppel's writings on industrial layout and routing.[4][5]

Building on these authors, Bedaux introduced the concept of rating assessment, which led to improvements in the comparability of employee and departmental efficiency. He named this the "Bedaux System of Human Power Measurement." The distinguishing feature of the Bedaux System, which advanced it beyond these earlier scientific management practitioners, was in its use of the Bedaux Unit or B, a universal measure for all manual work.[4][6]

Bedaux also mimicked Frank Gilbreth by introducing a motion study Kodascope package which he propagated with an early Bedaux client, Kodak.[7]

Management consultancy[edit]

Bedaux became associated with one of Taylor's circle, Harrington Emerson, whose consultancy[8][9] Bedaux emulated in sectors additional to engineering.[10][11] In 1916 he established a consulting firm in Cleveland, the Chas. E. Bedaux Company. Early clients were in the furniture assembly and rubber sectors.[5]

The Bedaux consultancy was one of the first of its kind and within a decade its success allowed for the creation of a string of consultancy firms across the United States, Europe, and eventually throughout Africa, India, Australia and the Orient administered by the parent company, Bedaux Internationale.[12]

Major Bedaux clients included DuPont,[13] Imperial Chemicals Industries,[10] Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later BP),[14] and Fiat.[15]

Of Bedaux's business empire, Bedaux Britain was particularly lucrative.[1][6][7] Here, the Bedaux B was so successful that it was copied by industrial firms such as Rowntree's of York (a corporate member of the Taylor Society), Mander Brothers of Wolverhampton, and influential consultancies including Urwick, Orr & Partners.[5]

Indeed, Bedaux Britain formed the basis for all four of the 'Big Four' European consultancies in the postwar period: Associated Industrial Consultants (AIC), Urwick, Orr & Partners (UOP), Production-Engineering (P-E) and PA Consulting (PA).[16][17][18]

In focusing on factory floor and office efficiency issues, the 'Big Four' Bedauxist consultancies were successful across Western Europe until the 1960s, when they were largely overtaken by U.S. consultancies such as McKinsey & Company, whose efforts were in higher-value activities such as strategy and restructuring.[19]

Labor resistance[edit]

In 1929, the Taylor Society supported Southern textile workers in their strike against the Bedaux System, which textile workers believed was 'even worse than the old "Taylor Stop-Watch System"'.[20] The same year, there was a strike over the Bedaux System at the Rover plant in Coventry, UK.[21]

In winter 1931-2 there was a strike by women workers over the introduction of the Bedaux System at Wolsey in Leicester, UK.[22]

There was also a violent coal strike over the Bedaux System in the Nord and Pas de Calais in May and June 1941.[23]

The Bedaux Canadian Sub-Arctic Expedition[edit]

The Bedaux Canadian Sub-Arctic Expedition was the grand title Bedaux gave to the expedition he formed to cross the wilderness of Northern British Columbia, Canada in 1934. Mostly, the expedition was a publicity stunt, but it was also formed to test out the new Citroën half-track cars that were being developed by Bedaux's friend André Citroën.[24] Key points in the trip were filmed by Academy Award winning cinematographer from Hollywood, Floyd Crosby, who would later be praised for his work on High Noon. Also along for the trip were several dozen Alberta cowboys and a large film crew.[25] To map the route of the expedition, the Canadian government sent along two geographers, Frank Swannell and Ernest Lemarque. The expedition started off at Edmonton, Alberta on 6 July 1934 and their goal was to travel 1500 miles to Telegraph Creek, British Columbia. Much of the trip would have to be made through regions that were relatively uncharted and had no trails.[26] The party failed to reach their destination and the original movie was never made, but in 1995, Canadian director, George Ungar,[27] produced a television biography of Bedaux incorporating Crosby's footage of the expedition, The Champagne Safari (1995).[28]

Charles Bedaux hosted the Windsors' wedding in his Château de Candé.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor[edit]

Bedaux purchased the sixteenth-century Château de Candé, in France, and lived there with his American second wife, the former Fern Lombard (1892–1972), a daughter of lawyer James Lombard of Grand Rapids, Michigan.[1]

On 3 June 1937, they hosted the wedding of Wallis Warfield and Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor.[1] Bedaux then arranged the couple's honeymoon to the Third Reich, where they publicly met the Führer, Adolf Hitler.[1]

The Duke and Duchess's U.S.A. tour[edit]

The next stage of the trip, the United States, was called off due to labor union, press and public outrage at Bedaux's involvement. He was quickly demonized in the media around the globe. Specifically, the Baltimore Federation of Labor publicly attacked the 'emissaries of dictatorships or uniformed sentimentalists' and called the Bedaux System a 'vicious adaptation of the Taylor System'.[5]

From then on, commentators conceptually linked Bedaux and his B system with fascism, and Taylor's remaining supporters, particularly those in the Taylor Society, distanced themselves from Bedaux.[5]

The fiasco prompted many employers using the Bedaux System, and those derived from it, to change its terminology to more neutral and administrative language.[1][5] This goes some way to explain why historical research into the enduring influence of the Bedaux System has been reported as difficult to undertake.[5][29]

Second World War activity[edit]

When Paris was occupied by the Germans during World War II, Bedaux became acquainted with leading Nazi and Vichy figures. After the fall of France in 1940, he was appointed as an economic advisor to Vichy and the Reich.

In 1941, Bedaux experimented with a political-economic system of his own invention, Equivalism, in Roquefort, Vichy France. Recent research has shown that the experiments amounted to tinkering which locals hardly noticed.[30]

Bedaux's wife, Fern, and her sister, Eve Duez (Mme Louis S Duez), were interned briefly in Paris during the war but were soon released through their connections to the Nazi government in France, according to a memoir by Drue Leyton Tartière (née Dorothy Blackmon Tartière), an American former actress and broadcaster who worked with the French Resistance.[31]

Bedaux's Nazi connections were by no means restricted to Occupied France. The archival records show that Bedaux maintained a close relationship with the German military intelligence service, the Abwehr, and that he was even designated in October 1941 by the sabotage branch of the Abwehr (Abwehr II) to command a large-scale covert mission to Persia (Iran) that he himself had contrived to capture the Abadan oil refinery and protect it from Allied bombardment prior to a planned German military invasion of Iraq and Persia. The sheer scale of such an operation would have been enormous, especially since Bedaux contemplated the “sanding-up” (and subsequent “de-sanding”) of not only the Abadan refinery, but also the Mosul oilfield, as well as the 483 km of pipeline between them, not to mention other infrastructure in southwestern Persia. The proposal was indeed first regarded by the Abwehr planners as a “fantastic” plan, and it looked as if it would not gain acceptance. However, Bedaux persisted and succeeded in getting the plan submitted to a panel of experts who, after meticulous examination, pronounced it technically feasible. The scheme was ultimately cancelled by the Abwehr for various reasons. Those that concerned Bedaux himself were: (1) his expertise was confined strictly to his 1938 survey of the refinery, and he knew even less about Persia than the Persians knew about him; (2) Bedaux's age, poor health, lack of military training and experience, lack of petroleum-engineering qualifications, and inability to speak either Persian or German made him a poor choice as commander; (3) Bedaux's inappropriate, grandiose demands, such as being given the full rank of general. By the end of 1942, however, strategic events (Second Battle of El Alamein, Battle of Stalingrad) had negated the need for the desanding operation, and Bedaux was abruptly dropped by Berlin. The extraordinary countersabotage plan became instantly obsolete and was never, as far as we know, revisited by Abwehr planners at any later stage of the war.[32]

Despite Bedaux's activities on behalf of the Abwehr and his cultivation of relationships with various Nazi Party officials, at least one record suggests that Bedaux did not have dealings with the upper echelons of the Party or with officials of the Sicherheitsdienst (SS Security Service).[32]

Bedaux's arrest and suicide[edit]

On 13 January 1943 Bedaux was in Algeria supervising the construction of a German pipeline when he and his son were arrested by the Americans. He was kept in custody without charge for a year.[1] Bedaux was flown to the US, and, awaiting charges of trading with the enemy and treason, committed suicide using an overdose of barbiturates while in FBI custody in Miami, Florida.[1][6][32] His death featured prominently in the contemporary media,[33] particularly an influential New Yorker biographical trilogy by Janet Flanner.[1][5][6][19][34]

Posthumous reputation[edit]

The circumstances of Bedaux's death and his posthumous influence remain subjects of research inquiry.[5][6][19][32][33] Despite his contemporary prominence in the media, and in business and consultancy circles, Bedaux did not feature alongside such figures as F.W. Taylor, Hans Renold and Charles Myers in the Making of Scientific Management trilogy by Lyndall Urwick and E.F.L. Brech.[35] It remains controversial as to why.[5][7][19]

It has also been suggested that, in an attempt to restore Bedaux's reputation, the French government awarded Bedaux a posthumous Légion d'honneur on the grounds that he had actually hampered the Germans and guarded Jewish property.[36][37] More recent research has been unable to prove the existence this award.[30]

Bedaux in popular culture[edit]

Bedaux's most famous depiction in interwar culture was as a crackpot inventor in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times who presents a 'Beddoes' or 'Billowes' 'Feeding Machine' to Chaplin's employer. The malfunctioning contraption was then demonstrated on a restrained and tormented Chaplin.[38]

In addition, the 'Bedaux belt' featured in George Orwell's Inside the Whale, alongside other items and people, such as Hitler and Stalin, which Orwell saw as indicative of the dark side of the period.[5]

Bedaux also appears as a thwarted efficiency expert, Monsieur Bedou of Ratio Ltd., in Pierre Boulle's Sacrilege in Malaya (1951).[39]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Several conspiracy theories surround Bedaux's life and death. They usually situate Bedaux as a conduit between the Nazi and British elites, who facilitated important events in World War Two such as the fall of France and the alleged murder of Heinrich Himmler by British intelligence operatives.[40][41][42] These stories stem both from contemporary sensationalist media stories following Bedaux's well-publicised suicide[33] and in publications which followed the FBI's release of the Bedaux files in the early 1980s.[43][44] These claims have been subject to recent investigation.[5][45]

In 2008 this issue was compounded by the discovery that key elements of Martin Allen's Hidden Agenda trilogy were based on twenty-nine forgeries located in the UK National Archives.[46][47][48] These forged papers explicitly implicated Bedaux high in the elite echelons of the Third Reich. As part of the police investigation into the case, Allen denied knowledge of the forgeries and 'suggested he was the victim of a conspiracy'.[49]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Steven Kreis, 'Charles E. Bedaux' in American National Biography online
  2. ^ 'Duke's Guide Here had Vivid Rise; Industrialist Began as Laborer' New York Times, 24 October 1937. New York Times online archive
  3. ^ See F.W. Taylor, Shop Management (Harper & Brothers, 1911). Online at Archive.org
  4. ^ a b Edward Francis Leopold Brech, Productivity in Perspective, 1914-1974 (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2002).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Michael R. Weatherburn, 'Scientific Management at Work: the Bedaux System, Management Consulting, and Worker Efficiency in British Industry, 1914-48' (Imperial College PhD thesis, 2014).
  6. ^ a b c d e Craig R. Littler, Development of the Labour Process in Capitalist Societies: a Comparative Study of the Transformation of Work Organization in Britain, Japan and the USA (London: Heinemann, 1982) entry on Google Books
  7. ^ a b c Steven Kreis, 'The Diffusion of an Idea: A History of Scientific Management in Britain, 1890-1945' (PhD thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1990) entry on WorldCat
  8. ^ William F. Muhs, 'The Emerson Engineers: A Look at One of the First Management Consulting Firms in the U.S' Academy of Management Proceedings Vol. 1986, No. 1 (1986). Academy of Management Proceedings
  9. ^ James Quigel, 'The Business of Selling Efficiency: Harrington Emerson and the Emerson Efficiency Engineers, 1900-1930 (PhD thesis, Pennsylvania State University, 1992). entry on WorldCat
  10. ^ Kenneth Hopper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos (I B Tauris, 2009) IB Tauris link
  11. ^ Bedaux. "Charles Bedaux". Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  12. ^ John C. Rumm, 'Scientific Management and Industrial Engineering at Du Pont' in A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management Since Taylor (1992). Link PDF
  13. ^ Matthias Kipping, 'Consultancy and Conflicts: Bedaux at Lukens Steel and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company' Entreprises et Histoire Vol. 25 (2000), pp.9-25.
  14. ^ Stefano Musso, 'Production Methods and Industrial Relations at Fiat (1930- 90)' in Haruhito Shiomi and Kazuo Wada (eds.), Fordism Transformed: The Development of Production Methods in the Automobile Industry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). Google Books online
  15. ^ Patricia Tisdall, Agents of Change: The Development and Practice of Management Consultancy (London: Heinemann, 1982).
  16. ^ Matthias Kipping, 'Consultancies, Institutions and the Diffusion of Taylorism in Britain, Germany and France, 1920s to 1950s', Business History (1997) PDF from Taylor & Francis online
  17. ^ Michael Ferguson, The Rise of Management Consulting in Britain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002)
  18. ^ a b c d 'Christopher D. McKenna, The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: CUP, 2010). Cambridge University Press
  19. ^ Milton Nadworny, Scientific Management and the Unions: 1900- 1932. A Historical Analysis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955)
  20. ^ Laura Lee Downs, 'Industrial Decline, Rationalization and Equal Pay: The Bedaux Strike at Rover Automobile Company' Social History Vol. 15, No. 1 (1990)
  21. ^ ''The Bedaux strike': Oral history study from BBC
  22. ^ Richard Vinen, 'The French Coal Industry during the Occupation' The Historical Journal Vol. 33, No. 1 (1990)
  23. ^ Saskatoon Sun. "Rumours surround legendary Bedaux trek". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  24. ^ Jay Sherwood, Bannock and Beans: A Cowboy's Account of the Bedaux Expedition (2009) summary
  25. ^ Bob Dyke. "Bedaux Expedition". Archived from the original on December 14, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  26. ^ 'George Ungar on IMDB
  27. ^ 'The Champagne Safari (1995) on IMDB entry
  28. ^ Craig R. Littler, 'The Bureaucratization of the Shop-Floor: the Development of Modern Work Systems' (PhD thesis, London School of Economics, 1980), Vol. 2.
  29. ^ a b Yves Levant & Marc Nikitin, 'Charles Eugène Bedaux (1886–1944): ‘cost killer’ or Utopian Socialist?' Accounting, Business & Financial History (2009) Taylor & Francis online
  30. ^ "My attention was drawn to a woman who was sitting on the edge of a cot with an ermine wrap around her feet. She was passing around a five-pound box of chocolates to her friends. I learned that she was Mrs. Charles Bedaux, at whose chateau the Duke of Windsor married Mrs. Simpson. Mrs. Bedaux said in a very loud voice that she did not expect to be with us long, and that she was waiting for Otto Abetz, Nazi fifth columnist in France before the war and the new Nazi Ambassador to France, to come and get her and her sister released. Next morning a group of French collaborationists, obviously personages high in treachery, arrived with an important German in uniform. They were very respectful to Mrs. Bedaux, helped her pack her things, and out she swept, while the rest of us were enraged at this exhibition of the power of social and political influence." From The House Near Paris: An American Woman's Story of Traffic in Patriots by Drue Tartière and M R Werner, Simon & Schuster, 1946, page 105.
  31. ^ a b c d O'Sullivan, Adrian (2013). German Covert Initiatives and British Intelligence in Persia (Iran), 1939-1945 (DLitt et Phil dissertation). Pretoria: UNISA. 
  32. ^ a b c 'Bedaux Legendary as Mystery Man' New York Times, 20 February 1944 New York Times online archive
  33. ^ Brenda Wineapple, Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner (1992) University of Nebraska Press
  34. ^ Lyndall Urwick and E.F.L. Brech, The Making of Scientific Management II: Management in British Industry (London: Management Publications Trust, 1949) available at Archive.org
  35. ^ Gaston Bedaux, La Vie Ardente de Charles Bedaux (1959). Gaston Bedaux was Charles' elder brother.
  36. ^ Sebba, Anne (2011). That Woman: the Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-297-85896-6. 
  37. ^ Mauro F. Guillén, Models of Management: Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
  38. ^ http://www.prrb.ca/issues/prrb-issue06.pdf
  39. ^ Martin Allen, Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies (London: Macmillan, 2000)
  40. ^ Martin Allen, The Hitler/Hess Deception: British Intelligence's Best-Kept Secret of the Second World War (London: HarperCollins, 2003)
  41. ^ Martin Allen, Himmler's Secret War: the Covert Peace Negotiations of Heinrich Himmler (London: Robson, 2005)
  42. ^ Peter Allen, The Crown and the Swastika: Hitler, Hess, and the Duke of Windsor (London: Hale, 1983) Google Books
  43. ^ Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy: an Exposé of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 (London: Hale, 1983) Goodreads
  44. ^ Ernst Haiger, 'Fiction, Facts, and Forgeries: the “Revelations” of Peter and Martin Allen about the History of the Second World War' Journal of Intelligence History Vol. 6 (2006) Journal of Intelligence History
  45. ^ Ben Fenton, 'Lies And Secrets' Financial Times, 3 May 2008 Financial Times online
  46. ^ 'The 29 Fakes Behind a Rewriting of History' The Guardian, 5 May 2008 The Guardian online
  47. ^ 'Forgeries revealed in the National Archives' The Sunday Times, 4 May 2008 The Sunday Times online
  48. ^ Ben Fenton, 'Himmler Forgeries in National Archives Case will Stay Unsolved' Financial Times 3 May 2008 Financial Times online

Further reading[edit]

  • Gaston Bedaux, La Vie Ardente de Charles Bedaux (1959)
  • Pierre Berton, My Country: The Remarkable Past (2002)
  • E.F.L., Productivity in Perspective, 1914-1974 (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2002).
  • Jim Christy, The Price of Power: A Biography of Charles Eugene Bedaux (1984)
  • Michael Ferguson, The Rise of Management Consulting in Britain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002).
  • Charles Glass, Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation, Harper Collins, U.K. ISBN 978-0-00-722853-9.
  • Kenneth Hopper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos (IB Tauris, 2009)
  • Steven Kreis, 'Charles E. Bedaux' in American National Biography online
  • Steven Kreis, 'The Diffusion of Scientific Management: the Bedaux Company in America and Britain, 1926-1945' in A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management Since Taylor (1992) Link PDF
  • Jay Sherwood, Bannock and Beans: A Cowboy's Account of the Bedaux Expedition (2009) summary
  • Adrian O'Sullivan German Covert Initiatives and British Intelligence in Persia (Iran), 1939-1945 (2014)
  • Patricia Tisdall, Agents of Change: The Development and Practice of Management Consultancy (London: Heinemann, 1982).